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With Starbuck building coffee shops, making the coffee shops look like franchises, with one looking very much like the other, Thailand’s former top politician, turned entrepreneur, Suranand Vejjajiva, went the other direction, and built coffee shops, one different from the others, especially for the surrounding community, serving comfort food. The place is called Brainwake, started five years ago, now with five branches.
“Even when I was in politics, my heart was with comfort food, now I am serving authentic comfort food. The Thai food is authentic Thai food for the Thais, Japanese food is authentic comfort food for the Japanese, European food for Europeans and American food, for Americans. At Brainwake, a hamburger is a hamburger, you know it when you see it and taste it,” says Suranand.
So as a Thai American mix race & culture, I tried a Thai dish & a European pastry, and the Thai food was great comfort food, exactly Thai and the European pastry, was a great European pastry, both delicious and definitely authentic. But I was curious and so asked Suranand, who orders what. “The Japanese, Europeans and Americans comes in and order our specialty Thai food, like Khao Soi (a Northern Thai food of chicken curry & crisp noodles) and we serve more of that to Japanese, Europeans & Americans,” said Suranand.
Suranand is weathering Covid 19, with the community based concept, saying all of Brainwake cafe & restaurant are stand-alone venues in the community, and so there are regular customers. “Our comfort food quality and pricing means the American culture of eating in the same place every day, when one likes the place, also occurs at Brainwake,” says Suranand.
So what exactly is a community coffee shop & restaurant, apart from being a stand-alone venues? The answer, according to Suranand, are there are books & magazines, for the customers to go through, there are painting by the famous American artist, Chris Cole on the walls, and the tables and chairs are set up, for one to sit for hours comfortably, drinking coffee, enjoying a meal, and having conversations with family and friends.